GeoMentoring Project Maps “Gunpowder Point” in San Diego

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Host Youth Service Projects to Develop Historic Records

In July, the National 4-H GIS Leadership Team and EquipoGIS, an international youth group, were invited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to conduct geographic information system (GIS)-based service projects for two units of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The results of their projects were presented at ESRI’s Education User Conference (EdUC) July 12 in San Diego, California.

These projects also served to initiate the newly established GeoMentor program that was jointly announced by ESRI and the National Geographic Society at ESRI’s 29th annual International User Conference. The program enlists people who use geographic information to help educators and students better understand the many ways geography and geographic information systems can help us comprehend the interrelatedness of objects and events in our world.



One FWS led project was conducted at Gunpowder Point, part of the Sweetwater Marsh Refuge Unit, located in Chula Vista, about 10 miles south of San Diego. Gunpowder Point was once the site of the Hercules Powder Company Plant, where between 1916 and 1919 kelp was processed to produce acetone. The acetone was exported to Great Britain to make cordite, an explosive used by the British during World War I.

Explained Tony McKinney, GIS Coordinator at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, “Using old maps, current aerial photographs, and structural remains in the field, we determined the historic location of the 156 redwood digestive tanks where kelp was converted to acetone for use in making cordite, a smokeless gunpowder. This tank field has been described as the heart of the Hercules Powder Company, which operated the facility. Each tank was 25 feet in diameter, 15 feet tall, and had a capacity of 50,000 gallons. Other remains from the historic facility were also located in the field and recorded. This data will assist the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge in developing interpretive materials to tell the story of Gunpowder Point’s role during World War I.”


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Tom Baker

About Tom Baker

Tom Baker is an Esri Education Manager, specializing in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, teacher education, and educational research. He regularly publishes and presents on geospatial technologies across education.
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